contact center metric definitions

13 Contact Center Metrics: Definitions & Calculations

This post was originally written on November 10, 2017 and updated on October 24, 2018.

Contact centers have a mismanaged relationship with KPIs and metrics. In their current state, KPIs are the single point of reference when measuring success for your team. Agents know they have to hit certain metrics, and if they don’t, they’ll be punished for poor performance. And really, some agents don’t even know what metrics they’re supposed to hit or how those metrics are calculated. Similarly, contact center managers know they have to push their agents to maintain (and then, improve) a certain set of metrics each month. So, many managers train their agents to whatever set of KPIs was passed on to them rather than unpacking metrics and then strategically creating KPIs to help reach larger company goals.

The live by the numbers, die by the numbers game has created a lack of clarity around what performance metrics actually mean and why each one is specifically important to your company.

A deeper understanding of metrics and how they’re calculated helps you set targets and hit goals that support the mission and vision of your company. Then, you can consistently track performance and see where processes and training can be improved to help your agents do better. Plus, when agents have clarity surrounding goals and metrics and are consistently up-to-date on how they’re tracking towards those goals, they’re more engaged with their work. Companies with more engaged employees outperform companies without engaged employees by 202 percent, and they have customer retention rates that are 18 percent higher.

We’ve created a list of contact center metrics and calculations that you can keep on hand for review, and that you can share when you coach your agents to provide clarity on what you measure and why it’s important.


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Inbound Contacts per Agent

What it measures: The average number of inbound contacts each agent handles. Inbound contact volume is different than inbound call volume because it includes ALL inbound interactions, like email, SMS, chat, etc.

Why it’s important:  This efficiency metric gives you insight about each of your agent’s productivity, so you can pinpoint where operations can be improved or where your agents need some help handling interactions.

How it’s calculated:

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

What it measures: The average time it takes for a customer to reach a live agent. The time a customer spends actively navigating through an IVR typically isn’t included in this calculation.

Why it’s important: It tells you how alert your contact center is to inbound interactions. It’s a metric that looks at the responsiveness of your agents, so you can dig into what your most responsive agents are doing, and replicate it. Or, you can keep a pulse on the experience of agents who are dragging their feet a bit and give them more resources and coaching to fix it.

How it’s calculated:


Call Abandonment Rate

What it calculates: The percentage of customers who connect and/or start navigating through your IVR but terminate the interaction before reaching an agent.

Why it’s important: A high call abandonment rate can signal several issues that have a negative impact on service levels. A few issues to keep on your radar: your IVR is too cumbersome or confusing for your customers, your agents aren’t quickly answering the calls once the customer gets through the IVR, or your agents are frantically working at their maximum capacity and you still have too many customers waiting in queue.

How it’s calculated:


Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

What it calculates: CSAT is the average satisfaction score that customers give to a specific experience they had with your organization.

Why it’s important: This incredibly important metric should be prioritized in your contact center. It measures a customer’s sentiment toward your brand, and it plays a crucial role in determining a customer’s loyalty and lifetime value to your company. It should never be sacrificed in an effort to hit service level metrics or increase efficiency. If CSAT is low, it’s a tell-tale sign that larger issues like agent burnout, operational inefficiencies, or lack of empowerment exist in your contact center.

How it’s calculated:


First Contact Resolution (FCR)

What it measures: First call resolution measures the rate at which your customer’s inquiry or problem is resolved in a single contact.

Why it’s important: The first call resolution metric is one of the industry’s top KPIs for customer experience because it looks at both efficiency and effectiveness. Companies with high first call resolution scores see higher customer satisfaction scores. Plus, they have lower operating costs and higher employee satisfaction.

Use a consistent, concrete formula to accurately measure first call resolution over time. Formulas may differ between companies, but a here’s a basic framework.

How it’s calculated:


If you’re interested in learning other FCR formulas and data collection methods check out this article on

Agent Utilization

What it measures: The percent of an agent’s time spent handling customer interactions.

Why it’s important: This metric digs into how your agents spend their time. For example, you may find that your agents only spend 30 percent of their time handling customer interactions. Or, you could see that a few agents operate at 95 percent capacity and have no time for lunch or a quick break. You can see how each of your agents operate, so you can know where to adjust their workload and boost agent and customer satisfaction.

How it’s calculated:


Agent Occupancy

What it measures: The amount of time an agent is actively connected to the system and handling, or ready to handle, interactions.

Why it’s important: Another way to track agent productivity, agent occupancy looks at the total time that agents are logged in and ready to help customers, whether they’re actively engaged or in between interactions. Take note, this is different from agent utilization, which only measures the average time an agent spends actively engaged in interactions.

How it’s calculated:


Average Handle Time

What it measures: The total time it takes an agent to handle an interaction. Depending on the needs of your contact center, average handle time can look at just talk time or talk time plus the post-interaction wrap-up.

Why it’s important: We like to think of this metric like the check engine light in your car. It’s important to gauge because if it’s skewed, it often means there are bigger issues you need to take a look at in your contact center. While on the surface it’s an efficiency metric, but it can also point to problems like low agent empowerment, agent burnout, or an over-burdened staff.

How it’s calculated:


Cost per Contact

What it measures: How much your contact center spends every time an agent makes contact with a customer.

Why it’s important: Using cost per contact, you can measure how your agent’s interactions directly impact your bottom line. That means you’ll be able to better forecast for future budgets and share numbers cross-functionally to improve company-wide operations.

How it’s calculated:


Cost per Minute of Inbound Handle Time

What it measures: This metric looks at how much money your company spends on agent-customer interactions, distilled down to the minute.
Why it’s important: It’s an incredibly granular calculation that lets you create more strategic and accurate KPIs around costs in your contact center. That includes operational costs, staffing costs, and costs for technology. Focusing in on the nitty-gritty lets you see how things like agent attrition and new agent training or ramp time impact your bottom line because of lost productivity and lower efficiency.

How it’s calculated:


IVR Containment Rate

What it measures: The percentage of inbound customers whose cases get resolved through your IVR or routing system without needing an agent’s assistance.
Why it’s important: By tracking IVR containment rate, you can optimize your self-service options and make sure changes to your IRV and interaction routing don’t cause hiccups in your contact center. You can determine if changes to your IVR help or hurt costs, your operational efficiency, and your customer’s satisfaction. Self-service options are continuously noted as preferred methods to resolve customer cases, meaning that a high IVR containment rate will likely lead to higher CSAT scores, too.

How it’s calculated:


Daily Agent Absenteeism

What it measures: The percentage of agents who don’t show up for their shift or have an unexcused absence on any given day.

Why it’s important: High agent absenteeism can have an extremely negative impact on your overall service levels. First, it means you may not have enough agents to handle your inbound interactions. And because of that, the agents who did make it into work won’t be able to focus on quality, but rather just speed. They’ll have to knowingly sacrifice performance in some areas to make up for the unexpected short-staffing.

By watching this metric, you can see if it’s impacting other metrics, too. If your agents aren’t showing up for their shifts, they’re not happy with their jobs and they’re not comfortable enough to talk to you about circumstances affecting their ability to come to work.

How it’s calculated:


Agent Turnover

What is measures: The percentage of your agents who stop working in your contact center for any reason, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Why it’s important: Measuring agent turnover means you’re keeping a pulse on your agents’ experience and the success and happiness of your contact center. If agent turnover rate is high, which given the industry epidemic of high agent attrition it likely is, then there are underlying issues to uncover and address. Agent turnover is a symptom of poor agent training, infrequent coaching, low employee engagement and empowerment, and an overall poor agent experience. This metric is one of the most impactful to the inner-workings of your contact center, to your team’s morale, and to your company’s bottom line.

How it’s calculated:


For some pointers on how to reduce agent turnover, check out our article on 7 ways to optimize the agent experience.

Reporting and analytics shouldn’t be cumbersome or hard to understand. Your insights should work for your business, and your metrics should help you reach your goals. Everything you measure should be tailored and fit to the needs of your business, but use these 13-defined metrics as guidelines, so you can create a strong strategy for developing, managing, and tracking KPIs that matter to YOUR business.

Sharpen makes reporting and collecting essential data easier for you. Get real-time insights and analytics customized down to the desktop of an agent, so you get a full picture of what’s happening in the day-to-day of your contact center. See how you can build personalized dashboards and reports, here.

Note: we gathered this list of metrics from an eBook by MetricNet. You can find the eBook here.